Pricing your cleaning by the hour?

I’ve been reading several books about running a construction based business and a few online things I find about window cleaning.

and pretty much all of the construction books say the most successful companies all price their jobs by the hour and not broken down into labor/parts etc etc.

I notice a few window cleaners listing services priced per window etc. my question is why not just price the job per hour?

it seems like it would eliminate a lot of the hassle of quotes over the phone and the other hassles that come with it. I understand you have to get a good idea how long it takes you to clean windows but it seems like it would be more of an accurate way.

I dont do it because no one is going to pay $85 to $125 per hour. That will scare the S&$t out of them. They think you will be there for 5 hours when it takes and hour or 30 minutes. In my mind I have my bid and I knoe how many hours it will take. And yes I multiple the two to come up with a bid. But if someone called and asked what we got per hour I would say it depends on the job, have to see it, products involved. Plus no one wants to pay a lowly window cleaner more per hour than they themselves make.


well, if you call a plumber or a hvac company they tell you straight up what they charge per hour for service.

if you give someone a quote for 3 hrs and it only takes you 1.5 just charge them the 1.5. and tell them that. just guess at how long it will take, if it takes you a little longer, you eat it.

I know what you are saying it sounds crazy “in the customer’s mind” but when you just estimate a job’s hours and give them a price it’s pretty much = to what you will charge them anyway.
obviously you don’t say well we charge $80/hr and leave it at that. you would simply guess how long it will take, give them that quote. and maybe tell them that is the max they are looking at. and they only pay for the time it takes you to finish the job.
even my old employer would estimate how long it takes to do the job and base the price on that plus materials. It’s what pretty much all service industry companies do.

for example if you need to make $60/hr. and you give a quote for a store front window that takes you 15 min from the time you get your tools out till you put them away. that’s $15. it’s not any different than what you are already doing. it’s just removing all the calculations basically.

Obviously the customer doesn’t need to know how much you make per hour I base all my services on an hourly charge when I look at the house on or in person knowing how long it will take base on 2 people. When they call to ask for an estimate I tell them I don’t do per window as there are too many variables for the job and they are fine with that unless they are looking for the cheapest price in which case don’t waste my time, I try VERY HARD NOT to be the cheapest in town I tell them - for a reason.

Once on the job I look at whatever the job is and price it based on my personal hourly charge so a residential that takes 2 hours $180 no need to waste 20 minutes counting all the bloody window panes, or when pressure washing measuring sq ft of driveways, decks same thing whatever I charge for my time etc I make close to $300,000 gross so hourly works! There is no mention of hourly on the phone with the customer. I just need to know certain things about the job if I’m going to bing it and if I’m on site doing the estimate I can do one in 5 minutes and not fart around counting up windows

I rather use the time I save working on my business or go watch a few movies and still make damn good money at the end of the year. Never understood all the bloody crap with counting windows, measuring out pressure washing, roof cleaning, french pane windows or old style double hung etc much easier and quicker this way and a very accurate if you have trained yourself.

Hell this way I can drive by a house and in under a minute know what to charge and if the windows are bad and in need of post construction then when I’m there thats an optional add on if they wish to pay it.

Why not try both methods for yourself and see what works best for you?

I want to see what seems to work best for the majority.

what’s your opinion?

Charging by the hour requires the GUTS to look them in the eye and say “Yes, ma’am, we charge $125/hr”, and not flinch.

Charging flat-rate (not window-count) enables you to present the price in the most attractive, reasonable manner, while also allowing for maximum profitability.

Charge flat-rate per house, not by windows, or time.

“We can get this done for you for $195.”

You dont tell the customer what you charge per hour you just figure out how many hours it will take and multiply that by your hourly rate. 3hrs x 155.00= 465.00

WC’ing customers typically have no idea what it might cost to have their windows cleaned. If one quotes an hourly rate, they still won’t know because they have no idea how long it takes to complete the work ("…it took me all weekend with Windez and newspaper!.."). In addition, they won’t be able to compare pricing from different service providers (there’s no “book rate” like with auto body repair or auto mechanic shops.)

I provide the customer with one price quote for my complete service. I determine that price on the basis of experience and factor bidding (I know my rate of production.). If someone insists upon a price without my knowing enough details, I provide an estimate with a range.

you bring up a good way to “sell it”. of course you guy have a good understanding how long such and such house will take which allows you to come up with your flat rate.
I like your approach in the wording of your sale.


And yes, no one should be allowed to provide pricing without a thorough understanding of how pricing works, and how to charge as much as possible.

I prefer to do the pane count pricing for the following reasons:

-Cookie cutter homes in subdivisions can look identical, but some have more windows. If Mrs. Jones has her windows cleaned and she refers you to Mrs. Smith across the street, you may be in a bit of trouble if Mrs. Jones has more glass than Mrs. Smith (Neighbors will talk, trust me).

  • My crews add on extra windows or minus windows while they are working. they prorate the bill.

  • Price Increases. Its good to know what you are charging per pane so that jobs that fall through the cracks (or havent been done in years) are brought up to todays inflation.

  • More accurate. I know what my guys are capable of getting done. I guess i could throw out a rate of 15 windows an hour or something like that but obsticles could bring that down lower.

I will raise my job rate if windows are more difficult to clean due to dirt or accessability. Also if they are farther from the shop than usual.

On construction cleanings, I bid every window on how many minutes it will take to do each pane. You have to do a visual to see just how much work is involved to get each window cleaned. When Im done doing the total minute thing, I will cross reference my pane count against how many minutes for the entire job. whichever is higher, I go with that figure.

I would suggest running hourly along with per pane to see what comes up. Keep notes of how many jobs you are landing as well.


I do all of my construction clean-up jobs by the hour and the contractors I work with never question my price, that is probably something you’ll have to work up to. If you are competing against others, that might be a problem to give them an hourly rate. I only give a few residential bids a year, fortunately most of the new customers I deal with are pretty well off and don’t really care about the price, they just want me to do a good job!

in the book you read, where it used successful construction companies as example… when they do big contracts they HAVE to give an hourly breakdown.
I think you could use their example, but you will be more successful if you do a flat rate model… imho

in the book you read, where it used successful construction companies as example… when they do big contracts they HAVE to give an hourly breakdown.
I think you could use their example, but you will be more successful if you do a flat rate model… imho

Kevin Dubrosky has a picture of some homes on his website that shows several different price examples to website visitors. It gives them a starting point to go off of (a picture of a 3 story large custom home starting as low as $299.00). This leaves room for raising it if need be. As Larry mentioned earlier in this thread, some people dont have a clue as to what window cleaning costs. I have done quotes for people that thought it was going to be $100.00-$200.00 more than I quoted. This has happened on rare occassions but it has happened.


the book is called smart business for contractors.

I scanned the pages so you guys can read it if you want to.

and it goes on from there about how to set your hourly rates from overhead yada yada yada.

well I think (in my head anyway) the flat rate model and by the hour is one in the same essentially.
if I know it takes me about 3 hrs to clean 20 windows for example, and it looks like this building I’m bidding on has 21 of them and they are all easy to reach, I could feel comfortable bidding 3hrs at $x amount for a quote.
Of course I don’t look at the said building and say well, I charge by the hour at $60/hr and I’ll bill you at the end for how long it takes.
heck, I wouldn’t hire me either.

now my only other thing is, what if I tell someone 3hrs and it only takes me 2. in my gut, the right thing to do is adjust the bill to 2 hrs to be fair. and I guess this is the difference of flat rates and per hour rates.

Admirable. What do you say if it tales 4 hours rather than 3?

Didn’t you already set a value that the customer agrees with at the 3 hour time level? Don’t you lower the value if you then adjust lower? With experience (and accurate info) you’ll be able to estimate time on a job pretty accurately – and that’s part of the professionalism you’ll want to convey.